Water-Energy Nexus Research Group

Our research is focused on the co-dependency of water and energy and how systems can be designed and engineered to be sustainable and efficient. We use a range of engineering concepts, methods and tools in order to provide valuable insights and help inform small to large projects.

Our focus

Our researchers work within the following focus areas:

  • water risks for energy and electricity production at local and regional scales
  • energy needs of water supply and waste systems
  • environmental footprint of water systems and energy sector
  • raw material supplies and water drought-storm risks
  • tracking water quality variations
  • water-energy efficiency of green buildings and urban infrastructure projects
  • geotechnical and groundwater modelling
  • lifecycle analysis of water-to-energy
  • energy management.

Research areas

Water and energy footprint and environmental sustainability

Water supply and wastewater treatment use significant energy, while energy and electricity generation are highly water intensive and compete with other end users of water. Accordingly, there are two research aspects of the water-energy nexus – ‘energy for water’ and 'water for energy’. We are looking at both these aspects to create sustainable energy and water systems.

Various engineering and statistical methods and tools are employed to achieve these objectives. The research outcomes are expected to provide insights into trade-offs between water and energy production and consumption, cost-effective technologies and efficiencies, and optimising water and energy use while reducing the environmental footprint. Our research is quantifying the energy-water nexus at site and precinct scale (e.g. green buildings), and regional level (e.g. the National Electricity Market (NEM) region of Australia). The energy and carbon footprint of water systems and the water footprint of the energy sector are part of evaluating a holistic environmental footprint with data used to support optimal decision-making.

Environmental performance of carbon sequestration – deep well injection

Deakin engineers have begun a major research program at the world's largest carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration project near Port Campbell in south-west Victoria. The CO2CRC's Otway National Research Facility is Australia's first demonstration site for geological storage of carbon dioxide (CO2). Our water tracer technology team help demonstrate the environmental performance of the deep geological storage site. The site includes more than 1.5 kilometres of rock that acts as a natural barrier to deep saline aquifers and buried carbon dioxide.

The research team is developing new ways to track variations in water quality in the shallow groundwater above the natural rock barriers. Part of the research is tracking the normal variation in CO2 activity in the soil and shallow groundwater because this can change over time, depending on rainfall, land use activities and seasonal variations in climate conditions. The information gathered will improve monitoring of soil gas and shallow aquifers and lead to more cost-effective technologies at carbon sequestration sites around the world.

Hydromechanical properties of rock at underground energy projects

Deakin’s research is at the leading edge of developing passive, and inexpensive technologies, to estimate hydromechanical properties of rock and sediment at underground project sites. Improving geotechnical and groundwater models for underground energy projects includes a range of industry sectors such as:

  • carbon sequestration by deep well injection
  • geothermal projects
  • underground tunnelling and mining
  • sustainable groundwater supplies for towns and agriculture.

With our industry partners we are developing advanced analysis of high-resolution pore pressure data and improved instrumentation systems for subsurface monitoring. Pore pressure responses to high-frequency ‘passive’ loading by atmospheric and earth tides can be used to derive in-situ hydro-geomechanical properties of rock strata and groundwater systems. With new generalised methods we can estimate in suitable wells and grouted piezometers many parameters in situ (i.e. in the ground) including hydraulic conductivity, specific storage, compressibility, porosity, and elastic moduli that are needed for geotechnical design and modelling.

Life cycle analysis of waste-to-energy, biochar: Development towards a circular economy

Reliable measures of carbon-water-solute interactions are of critical importance in the future of life on earth and the transition to circular economies. Our research on solid wastes such as organics and plastics, biochar and other soil additives has wide application in realising the benefits of carbon-water-solute interactions and future markets for carbon credits.

Deakin facilities in this emerging area include a biogas reactor, a portable gas chromatograph, pore pressure loggers, gas and water quality sensors and meters, and advanced material characterisation facilities for biochar such as the Institute for Frontier Materials. Our research is linking innovative laboratory characterisation with pilot scale testing providing much realistic data for more reliable life cycle analysis, which informs stakeholders about the environmental impacts of various technology pathways.

Group members

Researchers

Name Research interests
Dr James GongSmart water network design, hydraulic analysis of pipeline, structural health monitoring and assessment
Dr Shama IslamEnergy management, smart grid communication, smart grid data analysis
Professor Bre-Anne SainsburyGeotechnical engineering, rock geomechanics
Dr Svetlana StevanovicAir pollution, atmospheric chemistry, aerosols, oxidative potential
Professor Wendy TimmsPorous earth engineering, ground water, void water management, sustainability of water and energy systems, environmental performance of carbon sequestration, tracers in underground energy and mining projects

PhD students

Name Thesis topic
Sirjana Adhikari Life cycle analysis performance of carbon-water-solute interactions of biochar additives in soils
Milad Barzegar Advanced monitoring and analysis systems for subsurface monitoring of groundwater and clayey rock strata
Mohammad Faysal Chowdhury Data analytics for pore water pressure – new tools for sustainable groundwater and engineering projects
Vivian Zhang Environmental performance of carbon sequestration developing cost effective approaches to soil gas and groundwater tracers

Projects

Funded projects

  • Otway National Research Facility - environmental monitoring for carbon sequestration (2020–2024), CO2CRC, $856,000
  • Water tracer tools – optimisation of water management for underground mines (2019–2020), Australian Coal Research Program (Category 1), $296,100
  • Advanced monitoring and analysis systems for subsurface monitoring (2021–2023), Fluid Potential Pty Ltd, $60,000
  • Victorian sustainable water yields and Jan Juc–Anglesea coal mine restoration area (2021–2022), DELWP, $50,000
  • National groundwater recharge observing system ARC LIEF – Linkage Infrastructure Equipment & Facilities Program (2022), $42,479

Contact us

For more info about our research, contact Professor Wendy Timms.

Interested in researching with us? Contact a researcher listed above to discuss a potential topic of interest.

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